Sunday, October 16, 2011
Teenagers, technology and the comics
"Zits" by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman is a comic strip that I read regularly and enjoy very much. I mostly like it because the main character, Jeremy, is a typical teenager who reminds a great deal me of my sons when they were his age, and his parents' reactions to situations he creates mirror my own experience as a parent. Clearly the creators understand what it is to be like to be the parent of a teen in this day and age.
This week there were 3 consecutive strips that struck me as particularly applicable to two things about which I am really sensitive: growing old and being technologically challenged. The perspective that Jeremy brings to these topics puts the divide between teenagers and their parents in stark relief; we are growing "old" while they are growing "up" and the technological "generation gap" is, it seems, insurmountable. Check out the strips copied above to see what I mean.
These three strips all gave me that, "Yeah, that's what I mean!" kind of reaction. I mean, EVERYBODY my age needs reading glasses but NO teenager can possibly imagine what that's like, or that they will one day be in the same boat! And in my house nothing more starkly defines the technological difference between me and my sons then the telephone! I can remember when "cordless" was high tech and "wireless" was science fiction! My sons will probably never have a "land-line", and there may come a time when they only remember them from "the good old days".
So when I see Jeremy needling his dad about how obsolete the phone book has become, I can relate - to the dad, that is. In fact I just had a conversation with my younger son telling him to stop calling "411" every time he wants a phone number since those calls cost almost two bucks each (guess who pays the wireless bill), while the phone book is free. And when how to make a long-distance call has to be explained to a teenager ("You have to dial a "1" first...") and "nation-wide calling plans" have replaced even the concept of "long distance" for him, well I just don't see how we old folks are ever going to bridge that gap.
So there in the panels of a daily comic strip I confront experiences that occur in daily life in my reality. And seeing them there puts things back in perspective for me: my experiences/frustrations/joys are not uniquely mine - they are typical of parents of teenagers everywhere, and this gives me a better understanding of my own experience. And it helps me cope with situations that might otherwise drive me nuts - instead of getting all worked up over typical teenage (even though my younger is now 20) behavior, I just think about how Jeremy's parents might react if he did something similar. It's nice knowing that my incredulity at teenage behavior is not all that unusual. And if I can laugh at it in the comics then I can laugh at it in real life, too - and that seems a lot better than getting upset, don't you think?